Tag: food

T2T: Three friends, 24 countries, 165 days and 30 901km

Despite Africa’s impressive economic growth, it’s clear from the way people talk about and do business on the continent that views of Africa have not changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Some views are excessively positive, others overly negative. Both are equally harmful. We – that being me, my husband Matt and our friend Ishtar Lakhani – think it’s high time that changed. And so an idea was born – to do something to make people see Africa differently.

The aim of the T2T Africa expedition is to help people see Africa differently. (Supplied)
The aim of the T2T Africa expedition is to help people see Africa differently. (Pic: Supplied)

Having lived in three African countries – Ghana, Kenya and South Africa – and traveled or worked in another 20 between us, we learnt the hard way how narrow our view of the continent was. We now know that different size and colour condoms are required in even neighbouring countries. We know that a marketing campaign that was successful in one country can fail in another simply because the model wasn’t wearing shoes, and in that country only prostitutes don’t wear shoes.

We’ve learnt that differences go deeper than belief systems and languages, and similarities are not neatly contained within the arbitrary lines on maps. The treasure chest of cultures that exists on the continent requires more understanding and respect.

But what would be the best way to share these lessons? The most obvious way would be to illustrate that Africa is a continent of 54 diverse countries and to show as many countries as possible in as much detail as possible. We believe achieving this could be as simple as getting in a car and driving as far as time and money would allow.

This would give us access to some of the many unsung, self-funded projects that sustain thousands of people each day, allow us to learn about some of the cutting-edge technology that is helping to push the continent forward and, best of all, meet lots and lots of people. It’s these details that we believe could help all of us see Africa differently.

So that’s what we’re going to do: three friends, 24 countries, 165 days and 30 901km.

From the 5 October 2013 Ishtar Lakhani, Matt Angus-Hammond and I will be driving from Tsitsikamma in South Africa to Tataouine in Tunisia, via the southernmost and northernmost points of the continent with detours to the east and west coasts.

Along the way we will share as many pictures and stories as we can of the things we will see and learn, whether it be the story of a start-up entrepreneur, a trail blazing eco-tourism initiative or an incredible human being whose name we should all know.

The trip will take the three South Africans through 24 countries in 165 days and 30 901km. (Pic: Supplied)
The months-long trip will take the three South Africans to the four corners of the continent. (Pic: Supplied)

We’ll send updates via Twitter, our Facebook page, website, a weekly blog here on the Mail & Guardian’s Voices of Africa site and through as many other channels as we can along the way.

We also hope that our journey will make a difference to the people we meet along the way. One of our team is doing a master’s degree in food security and the other two have been part of a successful food garden in Orlando West, Soweto for eight years, so it made sense to take advantage of this experience.

So in addition to our #seeAfricadifferently campaign we will be planting 45 food gardens – an average of two per country – en route. The seeds and water-carrying equipment for this initiative will be purchased with R61 050 raised via Thundafund, Africa’s first crowd-funding platform, over a 60 day period.

Volunteers are being sourced via social media and experts all over the continent are generously giving us their time to make sure this has the best chance of succeeding. We know the gardens won’t all survive and that if we go back in two years some may no longer exist. But we also know that with the right people involved, within five years a single garden could be feeding an entire school of 60 staff and children daily.

Preparing for this trip has already taught us many lessons and the only thing we now know for sure is that while we don’t know what we’re in for it’s sure to be one heck of a journey. We hope you’ll join us for the ride

Tracy Angus-Hammond is a disabilities activist and social researcher with a passion for convincing others to see Africa differently. She volunteers at Nkanyezi and occasionally contributes to Africa: The Good News. She is also the owner and manager of a research consultancy, Angus Hammond Africa. Tracy has lived, traveled worked in more than 20 countries in Africa. Follow her on Twitter or visit the T2T website for more details on the trip.

A night out in the world’s second most expensive city

Luanda: a city where everyone seems to have money, kids drive better cars than some senior execs in New York do and attending a mundane New Year’s Eve party costs at least $100. For the past few years now, the Angolan capital I call home has had the dubious distinction of being ranked as one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive, city in the world for expats. The latest reports by Mercer and ECA International rank Luanda second on the list.

Many an article about exorbitant prices has been written by a foreign correspondent while sipping on a $10 latte in one of the city’s $482-a-night hotel rooms. At the notoriously pricey Casa dos Frescos, a supermarket that caters to expats, a melon can cost almost $100 (Luandans jokingly call it melão de ouro or the golden melon), while a rather small burger at the Epic Sana hotel will set you back a cool $25.

Excessive, right? Especially so in a city where an estimated two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 a day. As Lula Ahrens explains in this excellent post, there are two main reasons behind these exorbitant prices: a crippling civil war and general corruption. After three decades of sustained civil war that lasted until 2002, the country’s infrastructure was decimated and important industries such as agriculture and manufacturing never had a chance to develop in an independent Angola. As a result, almost everything has to be imported. Corruption and an entrenched bureaucracy further drive up the price of goods, as does the high demand for limited supply of housing, foodstuffs, and luxury items. Luanda is a booming oil town that attracts expats; they, in turn, demand certain products and services that are in short supply in the country.

If you’re visiting Luanda and want a good time, you’ll need cash – lots of it, preferably in US dollars. Conventional wisdom will tell you that when visiting a foreign city it’s always better to go out with a local, and this could not be truer in Angola. Locals will help you navigate the fluid Luandan nightlife scene and keep the notoriously unfriendly bouncers at bay. The savvy ones will also show you how to party without breaking the bank.

Visitors will quickly realise that there are two Luandas: the formal, established Luanda frequented by expats and the local elites, and the vast, informal, sprawling Luanda of musseques (slums) where the majority of residents live. This divide will immediately become apparent when you notice the sheer number of unemployed street sellers snaking their way through traffic. The streets are Luanda’s true marketplace where many citizens buy their wares. They also shop at open air markets which sell everything from fresh meat to shoes to vacuum cleaners to mirrors.

Luanda cityscape at dusk. (Reuters)
Luanda cityscape at dusk. (Reuters)

As any great night always does, yours should begin with food. On my blog Luanda Nightlife you’ll find many restaurant reviews which are organised by price so you won’t be shocked when your bill arrives. Alternatively, you can always ask locals for restaurant options. The good ones will point you to places where all the foreigners hang out; the best ones will give you the option of eating with Angolans or foreigners. If they decide on the latter, your destination will most likely be the Ilha (Island) area, a peninsula jutting out towards the Atlantic Ocean with one side facing the Luanda Bay and the other facing the Atlantic.

The Ilha is the perfect microcosm of Luanda’s reality: opulence coexisting with abject poverty. For first-time visitors, this juxtaposition of wealth and poverty can be jarring. Porsche Cayennes and BMW X6s compete for space with the city’s ubiquitous candongueiros (taxi vans). You’ll find women in colourful traditional dress on the side streets grilling fish their husbands caught, while down the same street posh restaurants will be serving the same dish to patrons for much, more more.

It is on this strip that you will find some of Luanda’s best restaurants: Cais de Quatro, renowned for its international cuisine and fantastic views of the city from across the bay; Vais e Cais, a bay-side restaurant specialising in fresh seafood; and Luanda’s own Chimarrão, which borrows the rodízio concept from Brazil and turns into an open air club at night. A meal at any of these restaurants costs an average of $60; add about $30 if you plan on having drinks.

Further down the Ilha, past the mansions standing side-by-side with slums, past what was once the zoo, past ‘billionaire’ Isabel dos Santos‘s Miami Beach restaurant, you will find Chill Out, Coconuts and Lookal, which are all rated among the city’s best restaurants. At trendy, cosmopolitan Chill Out don’t expect to pay less than $100 for your full meal. Stay a bit longer and the place will turn into a house-heavy open-air ocean-side club full of expats and ladies of the night. Coconuts is more understated; it’s a favourite among locals and expats alike. Despite its beach-side location there is no party after dinner.

Lookal currently seems to be everyone’s favourite spot. It’s a bar, lounge, restaurant, club and beach all rolled into one; the seafood is fantastic, the beer is cold and the music is loud. Your wallet will be about $70 lighter after a meal here. At night, all the girls and their cash-wielding boyfriends come out and several DJs compete for influence over its vast dance floor. There are regular live shows as well. Last year Taboo from Black Eyed Peas made an appearance; a couple of years before that house DJ Erick Morillo played to a sold-out venue.

If your Angolan guide chooses a restaurant favoured by locals – as a true guide should – you’re in luck and so is your wallet. You see, Angolans are inherently extroverted people who love a good meal and a good party; we’ve been enjoying fantastic food in reasonably priced restaurants well before Luanda made it onto Mercer’s ratings. Among the more down-to-earth restaurants in Luanda is La Vigia, a type of Angolan open-air ‘bistro’ that’s frequented by locals and visitors alike. It’s famous for its massive grilled grouper or any other fish really. A meal here costs about $35.

If you end up on the Ilha anyway, Casa do Peixa da Bela has what many have called the best mufete in town.  This traditional Angolan dish consists of grilled fish accompanied by beans stewed in a palm oil sauce, boiled plantains and a delicious onion and parsley vinaigrette to baste your fish with. In nearby Quintal do Tio Jorge, you can enjoy traditional Angolan cuisine while listening to live Cape Verdean music. It’s in a backyard, it’s not the cleanest, you will probably encounter the local drunkard, but a cold Cuca (the local beer) costs $1.50, the delicious fried squid starter is $10 and a heaped plate of fish with potatoes, palm oil beans and banana won’t cost you more than $15-$20.

 Quintal do Tio Jorge serves the best squid in the city. The restaurant, run by a proud Cape Verdean, has become an institution in Luanda.(Pic: Claudio Silva)
Quintal do Tio Jorge serves the best squid in the city. The restaurant, run by a proud Cape Verdean, has become an institution in Luanda.(Pic: Claudio Silva)

To get your dance on, head to Maiombe instead of Lookal. It’s a genuine Luandan club with booming kizomba, zouk, kuduro and Congolese music. $20 will get you entry and several drinks. W Klub and Brasília are two other local favourites where you can have a decidedly local experience for very reasonable prices. But the best, of course, is to get invited to a proper Angolan party in a resident’s backyard. Those are free and invariably more fun.

Claudio Silva is an Angolan living in New York City. He has also spent time in Washington DC, Lisbon, Reading (UK) and attended university in Boston. In 2009, he started Caipirinha Lounge, a music blog dedicated to Lusophone music. Claudio contributes to several other blogs including Africa is a Country and Central Angola 7311. Connect with him on Twitter.

A foodie revolution’s cooking in West Africa

At first glance, Republic, a revolution-themed bar in one of Accra’s busiest nightlife districts, could be any of the Ghanaian capital’s hotspots. Artsy residents, office workers and expats sit on plastic chairs in front of its wooden façade as dusk turns to night, ordering caipirihnas or snacks such as thick-cut chips and bowls of soup.

But look a little closer and all is not as it seems. The caipirihnas are made from akpeteshie – a traditional Ghanaian palm spirit also known fondly as Kill Me Quick, the chips are deep fried cassava, and the soup is called Fire Go Burn You – a particularly spicy incarnation of Ghanaian pepper soup.

Republic has an ethos of using local ingredients, championing traditional Ghanaian brews and ingredients but serving them up with a twist, and its owners say they are part of a foodie revolution beginning in the region, marking a new dawn in attitudes to eating.

“We are trying to create a new atmosphere here, and to rejuvenate our sense of identity,” said Kofi Owusu-Ansah (39) who founded Republic with his brother Raja last year. “If you look at our spirits, you will find not one single import – the base for all our cocktails is local-made sugar cane spirit akpeteshie”.

The "infamous frozen harmartan" served at Republic. (Pic: Republic/Facebook)
The “infamous frozen harmartan” served at Republic. (Pic: Republic/Facebook)

“We want to empower local industry and local brands,” Owusu-Ansah added. “It’s kind of a revolution the way I see it. No one in Ghana has ever experimented with these kind of cocktails using our Ghanaian spirits, even though all the ingredients are here. But now people are beginning to turn away from depending on whatever comes from the west, and making our own thing.”

There are no shortage of delicious ingredients to use. With fresh fish from the Atlantic, abundant and varied crops and a long heritage of spicy, well-seasoned food, some believe West African countries such as Ghana have the potential to be destinations for foodies from around the globe. But years of negative publicity and a failure to make local delicacies accessible to the outside world have skewed perceptions of the region.

“Nobody associates Africa as a continent with good food,” said Tuleka Prah, whose Berlin-based project My African Food Map documents food highlights from across the continent.

“People associate Africa first of all as a continent without food. If they do realise there is food there, they never think of it as good food – but as food that doesn’t taste nice, is difficult to make, stands around for hours, and is rudimentary and functional food,” Prah added.

“In Berlin, where I live, for example, there are lots of posters saying ‘Bread for Africa,’ accompanied by a photo of a hungry child and a piece of bread. The idea is that all Africans need is food to fill them up.”

A woman sells food from Ghana at a market in Berlin. (AFP)
A woman sells food from Ghana at a market in Berlin. (AFP)

Frustration at the way African food has been presented to the outside world has prompted a new debate.

“I’m a foodie and a wine writer, and I wanted to create a space where we can talk about anything and everything to do with African food and wine,” said Bukola Afolayan from the influential Africa Is a Country blog, whose new series Africa is a Kitchen looks at cooking across the continent. “It’s not just about taste and design, but also about chemistry, politics and economics.”

“I’ve noticed a change in attitudes recently. For example the big boys Accra and Lagos have always drunk champagne to show off, not because of an appreciation for it. But now I have noticed wine clubs opening up in Nigeria. And whereas it used to be bad wine that was imported to West Africa, there is more of a discernment now, with better wines from South Africa, Portugal and Spain.”

In western Ghana, upmarket beach resort Lou Moon is set on a tranquil bay sheltered from the rough waves of the Atlantic. But it’s the hotel’s food that is the big draw, with chef Yvonnic Ganlonon, who trained in gastronomic French cooking in Benin, using vegetables grown in the resort’s own garden and fish caught daily by local fishermen to offer exquisite food at London prices.

“I think people who come here appreciate the care and passion we take over our food. I love using the natural ingredients we grow here – cabbage, squash, carrots – everything is from our own garden,” said Ganlonon. “I come from a family of chefs, going back to my grandfather who is a master and teacher. My signature dishes are avocado and salmon velote, squash gratin, and a dessert of mango coulis and chantilly cream.”

But although Ghanaians have been going to places like Republic and Lou Moon in search of good food, diners around the world have been eating West African-inspired dishes without realising it.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from my mum, and the Ghanaian food my mother cooked for us growing up,” said Francis Ageypong, head chef at Christopher’s restaurant in Covent Garden, London. “I like food with flavour and I think that shows in my cooking.”

“I’ve noticed a lot of Africans entering the catering industry now – they are starting to see it as a career, instead of a go-between job, and realising how happy you can make people with really good food.”

How to make kelewele (spicy fried plantain)


4-6 ripe plantains cut into bite-sized cubes

1-2 teaspoons Cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon peeled grated fresh ginger root

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons warm water

Vegetable oil to fry

Chopped peanuts to garnish (optional)


1 Grind together grated ginger root, pepper, and salt and mix them in the water. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.

2 Place the plantain cubes into a bowl and toss together with the water and spice mixture

3 Heat about 2cm of oil in a deep pan of oil until it is hot

4 Add plantains, ensuring they are not touching or they will stick together – fry in several batches if necessary.

5 Cook until golden brown, turning once, then drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts if desired.

6 Leave to cool for 3 minutes, then serve hot!

Afua Hirsch for the Guardian Africa Network.

Jollof rice, egusi soup, suya: How to cook Nigerian-style

Like any other nation, Nigerians differ on politics, sport and taste in music but when it comes to food, there’s a consensus: no one makes a better jollof than we do. I can’t pinpoint the exact age I learned to cook but what really peaked my interest was the amount of time my mother spent in the kitchen. She could go from making breakfast to cooking supper without doing much of anything else. I knew there had to be more efficient ways. My mother’s habit got me interested in prepping, and I later fell in love with agriculture and eventually all things Nigerian food.

Simply put, Nigerian food is  flavourful and spicy. The typical Nigerian dish has a flavour profile containing salt, chili pepper, bouillon cubes (Maggi and Knorr stock cubes) and other herbs and spices. Due to international influences on Nigerian food culture, we use both local and foreign spices. Some common herbs and spices include thyme, curry powder, grains of paradise, ginger, allspice, African blue basil, nutmeg and cloves.

Typical Nigerian dishes take a while to cook. The average cooking time ranges from one hour to five, depending on the meal and ingredients. As with all dishes, there are a few tricks to save time – the most beneficial being prepping. Prepping and freezing commonly used items like meat, pureed pepper and beans will cut cooking time in half. Tasks like peeling beans for local favourites like moi-moi (steamed beans pudding) and akara  (bean cake) take an average of four hours.

Typical cooking ingredients include Maggi/Knorr stock cubes, chili peppers, crayfish and palm oil. For those who live outside Nigeria, sourcing ingredients can be a challenge when it comes to preparing authentic Nigerian food. Most ingredients can be found in local African grocery stores, and close substitutes are usually available in other ethnic grocery stores.

Jollof rice


According to most Nigerians, jollof originated from Nigeria but this has been a topic of many debates. Different countries in Africa have different versions of jollof rice. The Nigerian jollof is made from a combination of pureed red bell pepper and tomatoes, curry powder, thyme leave, bouillon cubes, oil, salt and bay leaves. Jollof is consumed all over the country and is served at most celebratory occasions. Below is my easy, budget-friendly recipe. Follow these step-by-step instructions to get it right.


1/3 cup pure groundnut oil (a substitute for vegetable oil)
1/4 of a large onion (sliced)
1 small can tomato paste
2 Maggi stock cubes
1/2 teaspoon each of thyme, curry powder, chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 bay leaves
2.5 cups basmati rice
Sheet of foil


1) Place a pot with a tight-fitting lead on medium heat and heat up the oil in it. Add the chopped onions and fry until they’ve browned.

2) Then add in the tomato paste; fry the onions and paste for 3 minutes. Then add in the Maggi cubes, thyme, curry, chilli powder and salt, and combine.

3)  Add 2.5 cups of water and the bay leaves to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil.

4) Reduce the heat to minimum.  Add in the rice. Cover the pot with the foil and then the lid. (It’s extremely important that the pot is well covered as we are trying to infuse each grain of rice.)

5) Leave to cook on minimum heat for 35 minutes.

6) Remove the pot from heat and stir the contents. If the texture of the rice isn’t to your liking at this point, simply cover the pot tightly for another 6 minutes. (There is no need to return the pot back to the heat, the retained heat is enough to continue to cook the rice). Otherwise the rice is ready to serve.

7) Remove the bay leafs and serve the  jollof rice with your choice of protein. I recently fell in love with jollof rice and poached eggs, it is the best combination.

Egusi soup


Made from a combination of shelled and blended melon seed, palm oil and vegetable leaves, egusi is easily the most popular soup in Nigeria. It is served as an accompaniment to fufu-like starches and it’s often eaten as lunch. The soup is prepared with a range of meat and fish; the popular belief is that the more variety of meat present in the soup, the better it tastes. Follow this recipe to make your own.



This is a special spice mix of chili powder and de-oiled peanut blend that originated from northern Nigeria. The spice mix is used as a rub on proteins like beef, lamb, chicken and fish. Suya meat, as the end product is called, is cooked over an open barbeque pit. These barbeques only happen at night and the meat from street vendors is usually better than that from specialised upscale restaurants. To make your own, this is all you need to do.

Ronke S. Adeyemi is the creative administrator of 9jafoodie.com, a popular Nigerian food blog. 

Ghana: Where my body is everybody’s business

I’m the biggest I have been in five years, almost back full circle to the size I was six years ago. I managed to drop from a UK size 16 to a UK size 12 but now all my size 14 clothes fit a little too snugly. I suspect I’m right back to being a size 16 but I can’t be sure because I haven’t bought any new clothes. I’ve merely stopped wearing the clothes that feel too tight and choose only those items that were once loose on my body.

It’s horrible being overweight in Ghana. Everybody will readily tell you how obolo (fat) you’ve become. Aunties will screech, “Ei. W pai o!” (You’re bursting at the seams!) even though they themselves are spilling over their kaftans and are probably twice your size. Once when I was working out with the office trainer, my manager exclaimed, “Ei Nana. Look how fat the back of your neck has become.” “That’s why I’m working out,” I muttered under my breath. She had the nerve to comment on my body when she’s at least a size and a half bigger than I am. Maybe it’s because she has children – women with children get a pass, I think. But from what my friends with children say, that pass doesn’t last very long.

Many years ago, before the white man came to the Gold Coast, it was a good thing to be fat. Fat women were treasured. Being fat was a sign of prosperity and wealth. Times have indeed changed. The last time I visited my farming village, Kwadarko, in the eastern region of Ghana, one of the women who lives in the community said to me, “Ei. You have become fat. She must’ve seen the reaction on my face because she swiftly added, “But it really suits you.” So even in a small farming village of less than 100 people, 50% of whom I’m related to, it’s not a good thing to be big.

I’ve always had issues with my weight. I was a skinny child, mainly due to the asthma that frequently racked my body. In secondary school I developed breasts really quickly and generally felt uncomfortable with my body. In sixth form, my friend Lauren and I would wake up early, jog around the football field, and do countless sit-ups in an effort to control our weight. When I look back at photos from that time I realise how “normal” my body was. I definitely wasn’t overweight as a child or teenager.

The weight gain happened in my early adult years when I moved from Ghana to London. I was initially unhappy there, living with relatives but not really feeling at home. I got a job at Pizza Hut, and was entitled to a free meal every shift I worked. Another perk was a 50% staff discount on products sold by Pizza Hut, including Häagen-Dazs ice cream. That was when I began to gain weight. Food became my emotional crutch. When I eventually rented a flat with a friend, I had crept from a size 10 to a size 12. She was a size 8 and proud of her body, perhaps too proud. She’d walk around our flat naked and tease me about my weight gain. We stopped doing the weekly grocery shopping together after she complained, “You’re eating us out of house and home.”

“I start diets all the time and I’m sick of them.” (sxc.hu)

Years later, I got married to a (slim) man. He was one of those people who sometimes forgets to eat but I have never forgotten a meal in my life. When we began having problems in our marriage, he kept losing weight and I kept gaining it. I remember him saying, “You don’t even care. Look how much weight you’re gaining while I keep getting skinnier.” The fact that he is now my ex-husband has nothing to do with the different ways in which we dealt with emotional issues.

The worst bit about my weight battle is that I know being fat is a feminist issue. I recognise that women are fed images of ultra-skinny models, actresses and other unattainable ideals via television screens, magazines and billboards. I know that I am not as fat as I feel. When I was at my skinniest I didn’t automatically feel happy, even though I had assumed that being able to buy size 10 clothes would have brought me automatic joy.

I know the roots of my over-eating are emotional. When I’m happy, I celebrate with a posh dinner with a friend. When I’m down, I take refuge in a large bar of chocolate. I recognise that I should drink water, eat almonds instead of chocolate, drink less wine. I start diets all the time and I’m sick of them. Why can’t I be one of the metabolically blessed who can indulge as much as they want without picking up weight? I watch my skinny friends when we go out for meals. The break off half a roll from the bread basket; I keep dipping into it. They order baked fish with a side of veggies; I choose the rich grouper provençal (fish in creamy sauce). I know I should but I just can’t seem to imitate them.

Surely I’m not the only woman who feels this way; who hates being called fat; who worries, perhaps unnecessarily, about what the scale tells her. I’m not the only woman who gets quizzed about her weight as if her body is public property. My friends tell me that in Freetown, Sierra Leone, you could be chilling at Lumley Beach only for a passing driver to stick his head out of his car and yell, “You bomp!” You could be in a boardroom in Lagos and be called “orobo“. Stroll down Electric Avenue in Nairobi and you may overhear someone say, “Eno ne momo.”

What’s this obsession with fat shaming?

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah works as a communications specialist at the African Women’s Development Fund, is co-owner of MAKSI Clothing and curates Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women, a highly acclaimed and widely read blog on African women and sexuality.